Is it a sin to play a hornpipe as a reel?
Specifically: “Chief O’Neill’s Favorite”.
Specifically: “Chief O’Neill’s Favorite”.
Over here in the West of Ireland we some times play hornpipes “like ” reels .
Slower and not “dotted”. Play tunes as you wish as long as you do it with a love of the music !
I’ve playing “Chief O’Neill’s Favorite” somewhat fast minus the hornpipe accents leading into “Within a Mile of Dublin” and then onto “Tommy Peoples’ Reel”. This sounds fine at home but would that be a reasonable set for a session? I really like these three tunes but that type disparity has me concerned about how appropriate the combination would be.
In one band we play “Old Grey Cat” as a dotted hornpipe, in the other band as a reel. Each claims it’s the only way they’ve ever known or played it: personally I prefer the hornpipe version, but then I do like hornpipes generally.
What Jon said re “play as you wish…..”.
In a band, or in the privacy of your home, you can do what you like - turn hornpipes into reels, reels into jigs, jigs into ruchenitsas… In a session, where you are expecting (or hoping) that people will play along with you, you need to be a little more circumspect. The only real arbiters of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is a session are your fellow musicians and you might find that some will relish anything that deviates from convention - and some that don’t care one way or the other. But you might also find that some disapprove of messing with the formula, so to speak; playing a hornpipe as a reel may not be much of a technical leap, but some players might struggle to make the conceptual transition from hornpipe to reel and therefore enjoy playing it less.
Play Chief O’Neill’s Favourite as a reel if that’s the way you like it, just be aware that some might not share your enthusiasm for it.
Someone in another recent thread defined a “proper hornpipe” as one that sucks when played as a reel. Personally I’d let that advice guide me. To me, hornpipes are lovely tunes and really don’t need to be played any other way. As Creadure says play tunes any way you feel. I can always sit out what I don’t like and there’s no obligation for you take my opinions into the matter.
I learned “Chief O’Neill’s” as a hornpipe, so that’s how it’s stuck in my head, with some bounce to the tune. I imagine most Irish trad players who know the tune have that same format stuck in their heads. It’s a killer hornpipe with those C/C# shifts and the one F note.
So yes, anything goes at home. And you may have success introducing it to a session if nobody there has ever heard it before? But if they have, then it may be a hard sell. For what it’s worth, I can imagine it as a reel, but I don’t think it adds anything to the tune to flatten it out like that.
There may be other hornpipes that can survive the reel flattening. For that matter (and maybe a digression here), I can’t figure out how Scottish players label so many tunes “hornpipes” that are actually played more like reels.
If you’re playing for dancers it’s best to find out what they like. If you aren’t playing with dancers it’s about what the session likes. If you’re playing for none of the above might as well sin while you are able.
I prefer hornpipes to be played as hornpipes. A couple of days ago I commented on this ‘reel’ in the tunes section. It’s called ‘The Grower" and claimed by the O.P to be a reel. The tune annoys me because (a) I could swear that it should be a hornpipe - I mean I could smoothly follow (e.g.) ’The Galway Bay‘ hornpipe with it, except, that is, that (b) I really dislike the ’b’ part. I doubt that it will grow on me, at least not as a reel. I guess I just love unadulterated hornpipes.
I once heard of a session where they play Boys of Blue Hill as a reel, which sounds really disgusting.
My guess is it depends on the tune and it goes both ways around, as you can play plenty of reels with that swing feel and they sound great. In fact there are people who seem to do this with every reel there is.
I think the general rule of “Make the tune your own at home and then play it in compatibility mode in a session.” applies here as everywhere.
Perhaps I should have posed the question as one of mixing a hornpipe with reels. All in all though, there’s a lot of good opinions here and the likelihood that I’ll broach the mentioned set at a session is close to nil.
What about the other way around. An older fiddler I used to know always advised that when learning a reel, it helped to start playing it more swung/ dotted like a hornpipe. That was his advice anyway.
not a sin, but why would you want to? Chief O Neill’s is brilliant as a hornpipe, crap as a reel!
I also dislike the way bluegrass fiddlers iron out all the swing and double the speed, but still call them ‘hornpipes’ like ‘Fishers ’or ‘Ricketts’.
“….when learning a reel, it helped to start playing it more swung/ dotted like a hornpipe.”
I agree with Kilcash. Well said, whoever the older fiddler was. Or, hopefully, is….
In any case, it’s all music, right? It’s about being played well or poorly.
Kilcash: Exactly! It’s almost like reels are fast hornpipes and the “swing” turns to “lift” as the speed develops!
I heard the same from a well known accordian player. The advice was something like “learn a reel as a hornpipe first, it helps the swing when you play it up to speed”.
One of the attractive things about playing hornpipes in traditional “dotted” style is the relationship and switches between eighth notes on the one hand and triplets on the other. This structure allows for quite a lot of variation, e.g. by turning two eighth notes into a triplet. Playing the hornpipe as a reel tends - I would say in the vast majority of cases - not only to iron out the swing, but lose most of the triplets, leaving a fairly boring tune which is vastly inferior to genuine reels. Of course, some people think speed is more important than artistry …
At my local session, we tend to play Miss Thompsons Hornpipe as a reel (https://thesession.org/tunes/2264).
Until looking up the dots in the session, I wasn’t even aware that it is a hornpipe ;)
I think we play it a lot like this and I think it sounds a quiet a bit like a reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBtL8SZFh68&frags=pl%2Cwn
Far from me to want to be the trad police. So you can do what you want to the tunes and there’s no way to stop you. The question for me is really why you would want to do that? If it’s because you like it better that way, that’s one thing. But if you’re doing it because it’s easier, or because you struggle to play it nicely as a hornpipe with all the triplet fills and such, then that’s another thing altogether. There are certainly hornpipes that don’t lend themselves to too many of the triplet runs. I think of Chief O‘Neill’s as middle of the road as far as that goes, so I don’t think it sounds too bad as a reel (but I prefer it as a hornpipe for sure). There are certainly hornpipes that lose a lot more of their character when they’re smoothed out. If you’re playing for dancers, that changes the whole equation though, and since my music has always been surrounded by dancing, I am pretty biased toward heavily dotted hornpipes played relatively slowly and filled out with fairly pervasive ’hornpipiness’ 😉
Ms. Thompson’s gets played as a reel at my session too, but I prefer it as a hornpipe. It’s really lovely as a hornpipe.
I like playing them both ways. Playing for sets, hornpipes are basically just reels with a different melodic structure. Glenside: https://youtu.be/xRJYQSM3-BY
Still some swing in there, just not the heavily-dotted step dancer style. We’ve played both the Chief and Boys of Bluehill, mentioned above, for sets, and they work. I wouldn’t play a triplet-fest like the Sweeps at set speed, though.
counterquestion: Is it a sin to play a reel as a hornpipe? ;)
Seriously, do you know tunes that “officially” reels and are sometimes played as hornpipes? I think the old french (reel) has some hornpipe feeling!
“At my local session, we tend to play Miss Thompsons Hornpipe as a reel…”
Miss Thompson’s is generally regarded as an English tune and, as such, is not governed by quite the same rules as Irish tunes. The term ‘hornpipe’ has a number of different meanings in English traditional music, depending on historical era and region. But, putting aside those in triple time (which are a really a different genre of tune altogether), hornpipes may be played either dotted and moderately paced or straight (or lightly swung) and fast, more like a reel, according to taste, to the type of dance being accompanied and, to an extent, the particular tune. I have heard Miss Thompson’s played both ways. In N.E. England, a hornpipe played as a reel (roughly speaking) is known as a *rant*.
“Playing for sets, hornpipes are basically just reels with a different melodic structure.”
I’d question that, benhockberry. The hornpipes in that clip, whilst on the fast side, and only very slightly swung, are considerably slower than I have ever heard reels played for set dancing - so a clear distinction exists for dancing purposes. You probably *could* swap round all the reels and hornpipes and, provided the tempos rhythmic emphases were suitable for dances, few dancers would notice; but it’s just not the way it’s done. Besides, you might just as well say, “Reels are basically just jigs with a different time signature.”
Davidread: “I think the old french (reel) has some hornpipe feeling!”
I agree, when placed in the context of Irish music. But again, it is not an Irish tune (Canadian/New England), so one would not necessarily expect it to fit the mould of an Irish reel. The French Canadian tradition uses the term ‘reel’ for a lot of quadruple/duple time tunes that, in rhythmic structure, straddle the lines between reel, hornpipe and polka, as the Irish tradition treats those terms.
Yes. Next question
Is it a sin to compose trad tunes?
You can´t compose trad tunes. You can compose tunes that fit the idioms. They may become trad tunes if they get picked up by players and spread to different sessions.
> You can´t compose trad tunes…
> They may become trad tunes….
So a tune loses its composed status when it becomes a trad tune?
Composed Trad tunes almost inevitably de-compose. Or should I say they become untethered from any person or place of origin? The author may be credited. But a good trad lives for the sake of the tune and those who play it.
I cannot think of Ashokan Farewell as a trad tune at all. Only because it’s now tethered to it’s origin and the Civil War documentary. The tune’s fine and I think it is a trad tune for the handful of people who heard it and played it in the years before it was officially ‘documented’.
> Composed Trad tunes almost inevitably de-compose.
They can’t decompose but the could be altered. There is still composition.
> Or should I say they become untethered from any person or place of origin?
Much better desription IMnotsoHO. However, they’re still composed - we’ve only increased the composer count.
This of course all raises interesting, but useless, questions about whether or not tunes have an ideal existance or not.
@Creadur: apologies for the exaggeration. :D There’s a difference, but not as pronounced as it is in other settings like step dancing or many sessions, fair enough?
“So a tune loses its composed status when it becomes a trad tune?”
No they don´t. I didn´t say that and it was not implied. The compositions of Bach or Beethoven still stay theirs even if they´re played by a metal band and become part of the metal tradition.
Likewise a tune you composed may be played on sessions anywhere and even outlive you, thus becoming a part of the tradition. It still will be your composition though, even though they might play as a reel what you intended to be a hornpipe (to get back on topic).
“… a tune you composed may be played on sessions anywhere and even outlive you, thus becoming a part of the tradition. It still will be your composition though …”
What if the B-part happens to bear some incidental similarities to that of another tune (not a hypothetical accusation of plagiarism - it is in the very nature of composing in the idiom) and, over a few years of being played in sessions, the original B-part gets supplanted by that of the other tune? Is it still your composition? Is it your composition played wrong? Is it a variant of yor composition? Is it half your composition? Assuming the change cannot be traced to any particular musician, is it no longer any one person’s composition?
I think as long as the tune remains recognisable it remains your composition.
Tradition isn’t just about tunes. The composer, musicians who’ve play the tune and the story behind the tune are all part of the tradition too. I think when a tune loses all that and becomes just another anonymous tune to stick into a set it loses a lot of it’s value. It’s like taking a portrait and painting out all the background to leave just the face.
…“they’re still composed - we’ve only increased the composer count.”
Cool! Sounds like a twist on the old standard, ’how many trad players does it take
to screw in a light bulb.’ [w/out the light bulb].
Funny timing with this thread. This past Wednesday I started Chief O’Neill’s, and it stayed in a hornpipe mode throughout. But then came the next in the set, Byrne’s, and it quickly morphed into more of a reel. I’d say it’s ok now and then, especially if it’s a tune the players are getting bored with playing the traditional way, and the vast majority of listeners won’t notice anyway.
But, there’s so many more reels than hornpipes that there’s something to be said for respecting the hornpipe as it is and not letting it degenerate into just another reel.
The great Sean Maguire played the High Level Hornpipe as a reel, it has now become the norm for playing it.
First answer. I learned Miss Thompson from a Seattle musician and then found the dots in Sue Songer’s Portland Collection. It lives happily in the contra dance world as a wonderful dance tune, going well with J.B. Milne, a Scottish reel by Angus Fitchet. There are many dance tunes named ‘hornpipe’ that are successfully played as a reel for dancing.
2nd answer: Jay Unger wrote Ashokan Farewell at the close of one of his Ashokan dance camps. Jay studied with Tom Anderson of Shetland and incorporated his style in this tune. The Civil War series made it famous. Jay lives in the New York City area.
Tradition is what happened 10 years ago.
We shouldn’t forget that - apart from slow airs - most of the repertoire of ITM and STM consists of dance music, and I think one should consider how the music relates to dancing. Genuine hornpipes (i.e. the dotted form) are used for solo step dancing, but also for Irish set dances, and undotted hornpipes would be of no use for these. Especially in Kerry and elsewhere in the south of Ireland, figures of set dances which are danced to hornpipes are very different to those danced to reels: the tempo is different, and the dancers are using different steps, as you can see in the clip posted by benhockenberry. Of course, you can always iron out the dots and play hornpipes as if they were reels (although I doubt whether it would succeed in every case), but that seems like a waste, given that there is no end of good (real) reels available. There are very few reels that work convincingly as hornpipes, which is an additional argument that the two forms are not interchangeable. So why not allow the hornpipe its own distinctive character?
The fundamental difference between hornpipes and reels isn’t anything to do with dotted swing, it’s about the number of notes. All dance music has a fundamental beat of two notes, one for each foot. In a hornpipe each beat is subdivided into two, in a jig it’s subdivided into three, and in a reel it’s subdivided into four.
So a hornpipe goes left and right and…
a jig goes left and and right and and…
and a reel goes left and and and right and and and..
There are a few hornpipes where you can take the emphasis off every second beat to make it into a reel, but you would need to play it twice as fast to maintain the dance tempo.
“All dance music has a fundamental beat of 2?”What about slip jigs waltzes etc ……perfect time …..
hornpipes are played as reels and vice versa and of course there are different ‘types ’ of hornpipes and different ‘ types’ of reels , not a sin just a matter of personal taste